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How to Run a Reverse Pick in Water Polo

Picks and drives are an integral part of any water polo offense. One of the more unusual types of picks is the reverse pick, sometimes also called an "up pick." If regular drives and picks aren't working, reverse picks are often unexpected enough to throw the defense off and get a player open for a shot. This guide explains how to run a reverse pick, and when they are most effective.

How to Run a Reverse Pick

In a three-three setup, the flats and the wings are the only players who run reverse picks. Rather than starting with a flat driving towards the goal, a reverse pick features a wing driving up to a flat, picking off their defender, then driving back down toward the goal. If it seems counterintuitive for a player to drive away from the goal, know that the reverse pick can open up a surprising number of scoring opportunities.

Step 1. Initiate the Drive

The reverse pick — unlike most picks and drives which are begun by the points and flats — is always initiated by a wing. The defense will probably not anticipate a pick starting from one of the players closest to the goal, putting them in "catch up" mode immediately. To start the pick (again, from a wing position), swim to the flat positioned directly above you. The faster your swim, the more the defense will be taken by surprise.

Step 2. Set the Pick

The point of any pick is to "pick off" a teammate's defender. That means using your body as a barrier between the defender and the path they want to take, forcing them to move off your teammate. This briefly opens up your teammate for a pass or shot.

To set the pick, swim up to the defender. When you've reached them, swing your arm that is closest to them around and use a big scissor kick to point yourself at the goal again. Your torso should be perpendicular to theirs, and you should be hips to hips. You will only hold this position for a moment.

If you are in the flat position, as soon as your defender moves to cover your teammate setting the pick, you need to step into the open water. You will only be free for a moment, before the other defender can move to over you. Have your legs under you and be ready to receive, and then pass or shoot quickly.

Hot Tip: Be Prepared

If you are a flat and a teammate runs a reverse pick, you need to be prepared for a brief moment of unguarded advantage. As soon as they drive up, tread away to create distance between yourself and the defender. If you get the ball and have an open shot on the goal, take it. If a shot is not a possibility, look to pass the ball into the hole set or to an open teammate.

Step 3. Read the Defense

The defense can react one of two ways in a reverse pick situation. The first possibility is that they stay with their original players. In this case, you (as the wing) may want to pause for an extra beat after setting the pick, holding yourself as a barrier between the defenders and their teammate with the ball. The flat will be able to move away from the defense and receive the ball.

The defense's other option is to try to switch players. The defender guarding the flat will have to shift over, while the defender guarding the wing will have to maneuver around that player to get to the flat. If a switch happens, the wing who initiated the pick will have inside water.

Step 4: Drive

After setting the pick, you will almost immediately drive back down the goal. If the defense has switched, you will have inside water. Depending on the situation, you can either pop up for a power shot or continue driving down for a wet or timing shot.

Mental Edge

Not every pick will work, whether it fails because the defense was able to get around you, a teammate reacted too late, or because the ball simply went somewhere else. If this happens, balance out into the empty positions, regroup, and prepare to drive again.

Know Your Picks Backwards & Forwards

Although it is basically a reversed version of the traditional pick, there are subtleties and tips that make the reverse pick truly unique. The reverse pick adds variety to your team's plays, and if performed correctly is especially hard for defenders to cover.

However, as effective as it can be, the reverse pick is only truly successful when both teammates know what is happening, how to read the defense, and how to move into the open water. For this reason, practice running the reverse pick on both sides of the pool, and with different styles of defense. Working on all possible outcomes of the reverse pick will help you execute it flawlessly in a game.

The reverse version of a traditional pick is a surprisingly strong play to run during a water polo game. Check out this guide for how to run a reverse pick.
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